Election fears dampen Parisians’ enthusiasm for Olympics ahead of Summer Games


PARIS (AP) — Just three weeks before the Olympic Games, the excitement in the host city is now mixed with concern about France’s political future.

The strong showing of the far-right Rassemblement National in the first round of the snap election has left the mood bleak for many in Paris, a left-wing stronghold and one of the few places in France where the party has failed to make inroads.

“Just thinking about the far right leading the country gives me panic attacks,” said 54-year-old Fabienne Martin after lunch with her son on the chic Rue de Faubourg Saint-Honoré. “I was excited when the Olympic flame arrived in Marseille, but these elections have completely ruined the mood.”

Although the outcome is uncertain, the second round of the parliamentary elections on July 7 could mark a major shift in France’s political landscape, with Marine Le-Pen‘S National rally ready to potentially gain power.

In Paris, where the Rassemblement National won just 10% of the vote in the first round on Sunday — compared with 33% nationwide — the prospects of France having its first far-right government since World War II have diverted attention from the city that is hosting the Summer Olympics for the first time in 100 years.

“I’m tense, stressed and curious about how things will turn out,” said Marius Rumillat, a 28-year-old screenwriter, as he enjoyed a croissant in a café in central Paris.

For him, the Olympic Games have become a side issue.

“Even after the election, I’m not sure my interest will return,” he said.

The Paris Olympics open on July 26 with a historic four-hour opening ceremony featuring a boat parade on the River Seine. The city is abuzz with activity in preparation for an unprecedented Games that will include some of the world’s most famous landmarks. While construction workers are still busy building several Olympic venues, from the base of the Eiffel Tower to the Place de la Concorde, organizers insist that everything will be ready on time and that the election will not disrupt preparations.

“France is experiencing an important democratic moment,” chief organizer Tony Estanguet said this week. “We must stay in our seats so that every French citizen can enjoy the Games they are looking forward to.”

Estanguet, a three-time Olympic canoeing champion, has carefully stayed away from politics as head of the organizing committee.

While Parisians are preoccupied with the elections, many foreign visitors seem oblivious to political developments. They admire the masterpieces in the Louvre and pose for photos in front of the Olympic rings under the Eiffel Tower.

“I think most people care about the Olympics and not about politics,” said Young Mook Park, a 44-year-old tourist from South Korea, who pushed through a construction barrier to take a photo of Paris’ historic city hall.

President Emmanuel Macron called early elections after losing to the Rassemblement National in last month’s European Parliament election, gambling that the far-right would not repeat its success in a domestic vote. The plan backfired, and his party is now desperate to prevent Le Pen’s party from winning an outright majority in the second round.

At the Batignolles food market, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal, of Macron’s Renaissance party, said campaigned Tuesday with one of his ministers, Stanislas Guerini, who risks losing his seat in the National Assembly.

Thierry Chesnel, a 54-year-old butcher, saw the entourage walk past his stand, followed by a swarm of cameras. He expressed indifference to the campaign.

“The only thing I care about, honestly, is more customers for my store. Does Mr. Attal bring more customers? No,” he grumbled.

Chesnel said he wasn’t excited about the Olympics either.

“The only thing I will see from the Olympics is that little flag,” he said, pointing to a garland of Olympic rings hanging above his podium.


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